Sunday, August 7, 2016

1 Timothy 3:14-16 “The Mystery of Godliness”

In the first three chapters of  Paul’s first letter to Timothy we have  seen Paul counselling Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus,   on  a number of  church related matters. They have an amazingly contemporary ring about them.  He counsels Timothy  on how he ought to deal  with false teaching in the church (1:3-7); he addresses   the role of the law (1:8—11), and  the gospel  (1:12-17). He  makes mention  of  the spiritual war in which every gospel minister and gospel church is involved  (1:18—0);  He reflects on the importance of prayer (2: 1-8) and  the role relationship between men and women in the local church (2: 8-15). In the 3rd chapter   Paul  deals with the matter of church leadership as it relates to the roles of elders (3:1-7) and  deacons (3: 8 -13). There’s a lot  which  Paul  says here.

Now as we come  to verses  14-16, Paul  pauses , and he tells  Timothy that he intends to  come back to  him at Ephesus from Macedonia (3:14; 4:13), presumably    to  be of further help  and  assistance to     Timothy in the difficult work of the church there. He says:  [14] “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,…”.  In the nature of things, and  in  terms of   circumstances and  travel time,  such commitments are not always easy to keep,  and so he tells  Timothy … [15] if I delay, I want you to know these two things :  
  
(i)  understand  the true  nature  of   the church 
(ii) understand the  true  nature  of the  great Saviour  of  the church  

I.         THE TRUE NATURE OF THE CHURCH : THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD, THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, THE PILLAR  AND BUTTRESS OF THE TRUTH  (V.15)

…(that)  you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Paul uses  3  descriptions  to  describe  the nature of the church:

(i)              The  church is the household  (Gr. oikō Theou[1]) of God.  Paul often uses building metaphors for the church. In Ephesians 2, he calls  the church  “a temple not made with hands.” Peter  calls the individual members of the church “living stones  that are being built up as a spiritual house…” (1 Pet. 2:5)  We become members of God’s household   through the new birth. In this process, God becomes our Father[2] , Christ our Lord and   brother, and  every member of God’s  households are also called  brothers and sisters  in Christ.

(ii)                the church of the living God (Gr. ekklēsia Theou zōntos). “ We are the temple of the living  God”(2 Cor. 6:16).   “In Him you also  are  being built together  into a dwelling place  (i.e. a tabernacle) for God by the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22) God is often called the living God in the OT, to make a deliberate contrast  with  the heathen, lifeless idols, who were created by the minds and hands of their worshippers.  Paul can  thus say of the Thessalonian Christians who had been converted  from such  pagan superstition   that  they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1Thess. 1:9).  The fact that  it is the  household of God,  and the church of  the living God, which indicates that  the church is  not ours, it's God's.  God's house, God’s church  belongs to God. And in God’s house we ought  to  behave according to God’s rules, and not in any way we please. Many issues that Timothy faces  in Ephesus  are  due to the  fact that various  people wanted to teach and organise the church  according to their own rules and  doctrines.  Has it ever occurred to you,  in thinking about the  design of the OT tabernacle /temple, that God never asked Moses for his own architectural  ideas and opinions?  God  gave Moses the entire  plan. He said to Moses: Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”  (Ex. 25:9).  Similarly, the church,  the  household  of God, which He  purchased  with His own blood is  not  a “do-as-you- please”  institution.  The church exists  by the Word of God.  So many of the problems in the local churches all over the world would be solved if  we  would understand  that  we are God's house and subject to God’s rules! In God’s house there shall,  according to apostolic  practise,  regular  attention  be given to the apostles doctrine, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and  to prayer (Acts 2:42). 7th day congregational   worship  remains in place[3]. Love[4] and unity[5]  must  remain central to  the church’s  being  and activity.  

The church of  the living God will be  exhibited in its purest form in heaven, and the writer to the Hebrews calls her  “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven… the spirits of the righteous made perfect…”  (Hebr.12:23) How  awesome  is  the dwelling place of the living God of heaven and earth. That is the  church  which you are called to belong to!

(iii)             a pillar and buttress of the truth. (Gr. stulos  kai hedraiōma tēs alētheias). The stulos is a pillar or a column  which supports a platform  above, and the supports the pillar below. This kind of imagery must have spoken to Timothy, pastor of the church at  Ephesus, where  one of the 7 wonders of the world was found, the temple of Diana , otherwise known as the temple of Artemis.   It was  a massive construction  with  127 pillars, supporting the marble  roof structure.  Each of these  18 meter high  pillars were made of  marble,  and  decorated with  jewels and  gold.   This temple made a massive impression upon all who saw it. The stones  of the  temple in Jerusalem had  a similar effect [6]. The application is, I trust, apparent.  The church has received  a massive   foundation of truth, for all to see,  given by  the Tri-une God   to  the prophets of the OT and  to the apostles  of the NT, all sealed by the appearance  of  God’s supreme  and final  revelation of Himself in  the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebr. 1:1-3). The church itself is not the originator of the truth. The originator is God.  But  God has deposited the truth in His church by means of His Word. The church  thus serves as the pillar and support of the truth in the world.  The less the church does this in the world, the less the world sees of God’s  truth. She is  God's essential vehicle for the gospel  and for discipleship  and also for  the defense of the faith. We ought to be very concerned for the current  lack of truth  in the world.

In summary, we  need to  appreciate afresh the  weighty significance of the church. Unfortunately by  focussing  on matters that are not essential to  biblical church life, the church  in history has often  been reduced to a  petty minded group of self- absorbed men and women,  from whose lips and  lives  the massive truth of God in Christ  could  not be  seen or heard. I say it again :  The church is built on massive truth. She exists  for the glory of the massive,  infinite God, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16). Brothers and sisters, may  the Holy Spirit help you to see the church as  God, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit  sees  her, and may your  thoughts concerning her  never be little again, as you make sure that  you continue to build  on the  foundations of the apostles  and the prophets, with Jesus Himself as the Corner Stone (Eph.  2:20)  

II.                   THE TRUE NATURE OF THE GREAT  SAVIOUR OF THE CHURCH : (V.16)

This verse  gets to the heart of the church’s  reason of existence, and  therefore her ministry.  [16] “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

The mystery of godliness referred to here is clearly  the Lord Jesus.  He is the mysterious  power  of the Christian life and of the Christian  church.  We have already seen that the religious  life in Ephesus was overshadowed  by the worship of Diana (Artemis). According to  the account in Acts 19:21-41, Paul had  a hard time  after he preached  the gospel  there, when  many  turned  from this gross idolatry  to  Christ.  A man named Demetrius in particular  stirred up trouble for Paul, because he knew that the power of Paul’s preaching was threatening the cult  and the associated commerce of Artemis.   Demetris  cried out,   “Great is  Artemis of the Ephesians!”  (Acts 19:28).  Paul  by contrast says,   “Great is the mystery of godliness – Great is Jesus Christ!” 
The truth is that Diana and all the idols of the world cannot stand before  our infinite, eternal, almighty King Jesus, just as little as the material   Philistine  god, Dagon,  could stand before the  captured  ark of  God. (1 Samuel 5

SO WHO IS JESUS?  6 things …

(i)He was manifested in the flesh. Though he pre-existed as God eternally with the Father, He came into this world, and though His deity was veiled, yet He was revealed in His humiliation  as the very Son of God.
(ii)  vindicated by the Spirit. At various stages  in Christ’s ministry  in his supernatural birth , his baptism and commission , in his resurrection the Holy Spirit bore testimony  to Christ.
(iii)seen by angels. Angels surrounded  Christ at his birth  and in his death, being seen by angels at the tomb on the day of His resurrection. Angels were present  when He ascended to heaven.
(iv) proclaimed among the nations.  The gospel of Christ  has gone throughout the world, even more so today , than then.
(v)believed on in the world.  Jesus is  not only preached in all the nations, He's believed on in all the nations. There are people from every tribe and tongue, and land and nation, who are resting and trusting in Him.
(vi) taken up in glory. This refers to His ascension

In these 6  short  statements  Paul  outlines  the massive person and ministry of Jesus.  The existence and  the glory of the church  rests on His person. We tend to forget that. Very often we are taken in by  lesser glories- such as Diana temples. We are easily  impressed   by lesser glories. Our modern temples  are  the  ever bigger and better shopping malls, sports stadiums, sports events and entertainment  centres. These  are  the new cathedrals of the world. These  and the services  and goods and entertainment  they sell keep us captivated  and interested, and  such idol business is booming  like in Ephesus.   Many are kept busy  in commercial  trade on this Lord’s  day.  The heart of our people lies exposed.
May God grant us to know how to behave in the household of God, the church of the Living God, the pillar  and buttress  of the truth.  A church built on this massive foundation will deal with false teaching by showing the superior  excellence of God’s truth. A church like  this will know how  to preach  the gospel, and she will  be able to manifest  a true balance between law and gospel. A church like this prays for her  city and nation . A church like this  has a  biblical view of the role of men and women. A church like this will choose her church officers according to godly standards ….all this, because the church knows the mystery of godliness – Jesus, her Lord ! Amen



[1] see this word oikos  used also in  vv.  4,5, 12
[2] 1 Tim 1:2
[3] the early and subsequent Christian church  preferred  to worship on Sunday, the  day of Christ’s resurrection,  the  first day of the week.        
[4] Jn 13:35 ; 1 Jn 3:11
[5] Eph 4:1-6
[6] Matt 24:1-2; Luke 21:5-6

Monday, August 1, 2016

1 Timothy 3:8-13 “Biblical Deacons ”

I am bringing you this message from our text   in  1 Timothy  3:8-13    on the  character  and nature of  a “biblical deacon”, as we prayerfully remember  our deacon Douglas  Reissner who has been involved in a vehicle  accident on Friday afternoon.

At Eastside Baptist Church we have had a big ‘re-think’ on the matter  of  the diaconate. It has taken us a few years  to think through  and implement a more biblical view and use of the office of a deacon. I would like to acknowledge the great help that  we have received    in the form of the   very helpful book,  “Minister of Mercy -The New Testament Deacon ”,  by  Alexander Strauch[1].  Mr. Strauch  laments  that the  biblical office[2] of the deacon  has  been  degraded.  The noble office of the biblical deacon has been reduced to   that  of  being a “church executive” (i.e. member of a ruling church council), or “ a building and property manager”, or  a  “church factotum”   i.e.  a  church official  with diverse portfolios ranging from administration to  just about anything  else  you would care to think of.   Strauch’s burden is to help deacons (Gr. diakonos – servant)  to get “out of the boardroom or the building maintenance  committee into the people serving mentality…” [3], the office for which for which they were originally  designed by God.

At Eastside  we believe that the ministry of  our diaconate  exists  to make the gospel  that we preach look good.  This is our thinking : The gospel  of our Lord Jesus Christ,  when faithfully proclaimed, makes  strong demands. The gospel requires  firstly  that we  must admit  that  we are sinners. Secondly, the Gospel requires  that we  must believe in the Lord Jesus  Christ  in order to  be reconciled to  the God whom we  have offended by our sin. Thirdly , the gospel requires that  we must  not only believe, but that we must actually come to Jesus  for the forgiveness of our sin.

Now when people  hear this,  they are  generally offended. Nobody likes to be told that he/ she is a sinner,  and for this reason they will  also not  see their problem , and so they will not look to the solution  who is  Jesus. Many  never  embark on  the  Christian pilgrimage that leads  them back to God, but away from God. The fact is that most people do not think deeply about the meaning of their existence. They are focussed  on simply  living the life.  The gospel is a trumpet call from God, n alarm ,  designed to  awaken us  to the reality  of eternity. The wrath of God is coming, but, like the day of Noah,  no one is listening !   But if  in the  act of preaching the gospel    we show personal care and attention  to the real need  of  those to whom we preach, then we may find that they will  take another  look  at Jesus again. That  look will transform them for good and forever.   So the diaconate by the exercise of  care and compassion  helps  unconverted people  to look to Jesus by listening to our preaching of the gospel.  But the diaconate also  creates an atmosphere of love and compassion within the church, so that the church reflects more of Christ’s love and compassion  to the world.

CONTEXT :

Paul writes this letter  to his young friend Timothy, pastor In Ephesus   to counteract  the  spiritual decline in the church  (1:18), fuelled by Satan and his  lieutenants.   One of the most important matters in maintaining a healthy church is  not only the matter of maintaining  sound doctrine, but    also   establishing a sound  leadership.  In this regard , the  N.T church  has been given two offices  to govern  the church : elders ( 3:1-7) and deacons ( 3:8-13)

The relationship between elders/pastors and deacons:
In order to understand the role of the N.T. deacon, we must begin by understanding the pastor-shepherd's role in the church. In both places in the Bible where the  word  'deacon'  occurs,  it is associated with the shepherds of the church (Phil 1:1 ; 1 Tim 3: 8 - 13). The passage in Acts 6:1-7, although  it does not actually mention the word  pastor /elder  or deacon,  gives us insight into this two fold  ministry  of the church. 

It results from a  two-fold need:

(i)         to enable  the  apostles, the first shepherds of the church, to  give their attention to  their primary calling - the Word and prayer.
(ii)        to provide  a care system  for the  many physical  needs of the church.

Ignoring  the need  of   vulnerable people  in the early church  would have  led  to some serious questions being asked about the gospel.  The apostles, the early shepherds of the church  had their hands full. Their  primary priority  was to preach the Word, to  point people to  Jesus  and to constantly pray  for wisdom  to lead  the church of God. Caring for widows, orphans and vulnerable people  is important,  but the  apostles knew that they must not allow to let this detract them from their primary calling.  That would be disastrous. We all need food to live. That is why we spend so much time and energy to provide food for ourselves. But we also need the food of God's Word, for man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Jn. 6:27). People cannot truly live without God's Word. God's people cannot mature without the Word of  God.  People  are vulnerable to Satan without God's Word. Therefore it would be  wrong for the apostles to neglect the preaching of God's Word.

Pastor – elders must  keep this perspective in mind, for they can be  easily side tracked by the physical needs of people,  so that they  forget to feed the flock. We cannot diminish  the shepherd's time for prayer and preparation.   When the  shepherds neglect the Word of God, they sabotage the work of God. Sadly, many pastor-elders  have become essentially manager- administrators, whose symbols of ministry are the office rather  than the study, and the telephone, rather than the Bible. The shepherds of the church  must hand over the very important ministry of mercy to the deacons!   I remind you that  our elder and deacon leaders  are men  who  provide an enabling environment in the church in which  they must lead a team of  pastoral men and women, and  a team of diaconally minded men and women. 

The qualification of the deacon (Acts 6 ; 1 Tim. 3:8 - 12)

1 Tim 3: 8 - 12   Paul insists that  the  deacon leader, like the  elder/pastor,  should be properly qualified and publicly examined before he serves. They must be godly. The apostles required in Acts 6: 4  that  such men should be "full of the spirit and wisdom”.  A  properly ordered church must  have morally and spiritually  qualified elders and deacons.   We note that the deacon’s character qualifications are  similar to the elders.  The deacon as a  minister of mercy, gets involved in  the lives of needy people.  He  therefore must lead others in this ministry by example.    Specific directions to this end are given:  

1.       men who are dignified   (ESV) – worthy of respect (NIV) (v.8).  A deacon must be respected by the congregation.   He takes his faith seriously.  He is full of wisdom and has a good sense of judgment in both, spiritual and practical matters.   He needs great wisdom and  discernment to truly help.  The problems of  people with physical needs  are most often basic, but they can be complex. Many people  come to the church for help, and they  often come in a deceitful manner. That needs to be understood and dealt with appropriately and with great wisdom. The tendency is there to oversimplify matters instead of going to the heart of a needy man’s problem.  The deacon is serious about that.

2.       not double tongued (v.8)  (ESV), sincere (NIV) i.e.  A deacon must demonstrate integrity of speech. He cannot be a man who says one thing and then another.  Deceit in word or manner will quickly alienate the deacon from those he is wishing to help. Too many Christian leaders have proven that they cannot be trusted with their mouths!

3.       Not addicted to much wine. (v.8) A person in a position of trust cannot have a drinking problem.  There is a sad pattern in some great men in the Bible who had fallen prey to alcohol: Noah (Gen. 9:18-27); Lot (Gen.19:30-38);   Ammon (2 Sam. 13:28-29). All these men had their testimonies spoiled through drunkenness, which is a sin. In our society riddled with  drunkenness it is  wise for elders and deacons to be very  careful in the use of drink.

4.       not  greedy for dishonest gain. (v.8)  The deacon must be a man of financial integrity. A deacon is dealing with church money, sacrificially given by God’s people and for God’s honour.  So a deacon must be free from any trace of dishonesty. But being “not greedy” means more than that. It also means ‘not being in love with money ‘.So we must carefully examine a man’s financial integrity before he is chosen to be a deacon.

5.      hold to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  (v.9) The expression, “mystery of the faith “ is a   term that refers to Christianity’s distinctive truths. In the N.T. “mystery” means  “a revealed secret” - the revealed secrets of the Christian faith are made known to us in the Bible.  A deacon must know   Jesus  theologically  and experientially.  He cannot be orthodox in his profession of faith and live in  practical denial of those truths.    The NT does not allow us to separate life and doctrine.

6.      They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons" (v.10).    That means that there has to be a probation time before a man can serve as a deacon. The congregation must have a chance to assess the character and beliefs of the man. There must be evidence of his ability. 

7.      V.11  Note too, that their wives qualify them!

8.       They must be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their households well. (v.12)  they must be “one wife husbands“.  They show deep commitments to their wives. He  must also manage his own children and his own household well. If  he has children at home, they must obey and submit to his leadership.  There are no perfect parents and there are no problem free children in this world. Even the best parents struggle with their children at times. However, those who lead in the church must resolve and manage their domestic problems in godly ways, guiding their children with firmness through the many storms of life.

THE DEACON’S REWARD:

"Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus" (v.13). Our Lord highly esteems the deacon's work, for it is foundational to the life and witness of the church. Although these words apply principally to the deacons, their promise is surely true for anyone who serves the church of  our Lord Jesus Christ well.  Deacons (like elders) are servants. They do not think first about themselves. They first work in the Lord’s field, and then they think about their houses. And there’s a great reward waiting for such. “Everyone  who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust  do not destroy and where  thieves do not break in and steal (Matt. 6:19-24), says Jesus.  This is an invitation to lose your life  in Christ’s  service to make the gospel  look good by serving  others by  meeting physical needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs  in our community. Some  of the  practical aspects  would involve  hospital visitation, visiting the aged  or the  sick at home; ministering to the poor; looking after  the needs of our poorer  churches etc.

Jesus says that  by  extending such  practical help in His Name  you will surely  gain heaven’s reward. Amen !



[1] Alexander Strauch :  “Minister of Mercy -The New Testament Deacon ”,published by Lewis and Roth. We have also been greatly helped by Strauch’s book on  Biblical Eldership
[2] The Bible  recognises only 2 types of  church  officers in the Bible : elder/shepherd/overseer  (presbuteros / poimen/ episkopos) and deacon (diakonos).
[3]

Monday, July 25, 2016

Acts 3 : "NO OTHER NAME!"

[1] Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. [2] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. [3] Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. [4] And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” [5] And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. [6] But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” [7] And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. [8] And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. [9] And all the people saw him walking and praising God, [10] and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

[11] While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. [12] And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? [13] The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. [14] But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, [15] and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. [16] And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

[17] “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. [18] But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. [19] Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, [20] that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, [21] whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. [22] Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. [23] And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ [24] And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. [25] You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ [26] God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3 ESV)

OUTLINE OF ACTS 3

(i)                 A miracle is performed in the Name of Jesus (3:1 – 10) 
(ii)               A  message expounds the name of Jesus (3:11 – 26)

1.      A MIRACLE  IS PERFORMED IN THE NAME OF JESUS

Peter and John are  on their way to a  3 p.m. prayer meeting at the temple, when they come across this beggar at the temple gate called “Beautiful”.
Note the location where the beggar sits. He sat at the entrance of the temple gate, with people passing by on their way  to  prayer. It was a good, lucrative  spot  to sit  and beg.  The people’s consciences were soft.
This  raises a profound question. Why  this picture of a  human wretch  at the  beautiful temple gate?  
Surely this is  ironic.  
Why is the world like this? 
Why do we daily  read in newspapers &  see on T.V. ‘s such terrible accounts of human misery and suffering. 
Does God care?
And  to add injury to insult, consider the  plight of this man. By God’s law in Leviticus 21:16 – 20, being a man with a blemish  he was shut out from the temple!  There was no wheel chair ramp to the temple! There was no provision made for the disabled in the O.T. economy!  This man would have known all about that! Is God indifferent to the sufferings of such people?

We shall seek to answer this question later.

Vv. 4 &5 :

Peter and John did not avoid the crippled beggar at the gate. Peter said to  him:  “Look at us!”
He  did not ignore him.
He made eye contact.
He got the man’s attention.
He gave him a  command.   In v. 6 we find Peter’s famous quote :  “ I have no silver and gold, but  what I do have I give to you . In the Name of Jesus  Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Cash, compassion and  care can only  lend temporary relief to this man’s suffering. But it cannot solve his ultimate  problem. What the man needs is to be helped in a significant way. But nobody can be humanly helped in that condition, except a miracle should happen to him. 
He would need Jesus (the Creator of his body) to deal with Him!

At this point I want to remind you of something  important ! If all that the Christian gospel can offer  us of in the light of this world’s suffering  is that we should be good Samaritans, and attempt our best to give  cash, compassion and care, then we do not have much of a gospel!  Christianity  is much more  than  good works.  If Christianity were simply  good works , it would be no different from other religions, and it would fall short  of what Jesus  came to do  for the world.  Good works alone  robs the Christian gospel of its power!
The gospel is much, much bigger  than  cash, care and compassion. 
The essence of the Christian gospel is not primarily  about  human care, compassion and  cash – important as that might be ! The essence of the Christian gospel is  so to present Jesus to people, that they might look at Him  and that  He might deal with them in ultimate terms.
Peter said in effect, “I don’t have cash, but I have Jesus”…  “In the Name of Jesus – the  Messiah from Nazareth – walk!”
The essence of our witness is to present Jesus to sinful, broken people!

What do we see  then  as Jesus is presented in this manner?  We see a real miracle! Here was a man who was crippled from birth (3:2).
He had never walked!  
But now,  we see  that  the man’s feet and ankles instantly grew strong (3:7).
He  jumped to his feet and he began to walk , and  to jump and to  praise God! (3:8). A true miracle!

But here is the greater miracle.  He that was never allowed into the temple would now be allowed to go in!
Now get this point. The  real answer to this man’s problem   was  not   receiving a  ‘miracle’. The problems of this world are not going to be met by receiving your miracle as the local faith healers would advertise. The answer is neither  in the miracle which he might   receive  or  the money which he may get.  The true  answer is Jesus!  He was receiving Jesus . In the Name of JESUS, WALK! And he was going to do so much more  than  walking . He was praising God. He was giving glory to  God! (3:9) 

The stage is now for the sermon  or explanation which Peter  gives in reply.

2.      THE MESSAGE WHICH EXPOUNDS THE NAME OF JESUS :

The people are astonished!  
See Peter’s reply in v. 12! “Men of Israel why does this surprise you?”
And immediately he addresses the issue that the  people are thinking about.
The people think that this has something to do with Peter and John’s power.
The people’s  focus is on the men, and not on the power that moves these men.
But Peter says: “Don’t look at us! Look at God! Look at Jesus!”    We  are vehicles (means) , but the power is of God (v. 13)

Why has God done this outstanding miracle  through Peter and John?
V. 13 provides the answer.  
God  has wanted to glorify His Son Jesus in this instance.  God  wanted to show  the world  the  other true nature  of  Jesus – the  God - nature that was consistently  resisted  by  the Jews and their leaders ! 
As a result  they  had  denied Him  (3: 13, 14)  and killed  Him (3:15).
They thought  that they had gotten rid of Him!  
But God has raised Him from the dead! (3:15b) Truly Jesus’ name is glorified by this! 
The healing is attributed to Jesus  and more glory  is brought  to His name. 

THE KEY QUESTION ARISES NOW :
We marvel at the  miraculous healing of this man.  
But why do so many other people not get healed? 
What was the purpose of this healing if all  do not get healed ?

3:21  KEY VERSE TO THE QUESTION :  "...that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, [21] whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago..."

Jesus is the Restorer of all things. Why not now  and for all people  at this time?   Note that  this healing is spoken of as in the future! Now the question again : Why does Jesus not heal everybody?
 The plain answer is this : Because  the restoration has not taken place yet.
We are currently  living in the time of  sin and decay.
The perfect has not yet come (1 Cor. 13:10).    
This miracle is a sign of what is yet to be. It is a sign of the coming kingdom.
It is not yet normative.  And so , even in Jesus day, not all the sick, lame and diseased were healed. This is a preview  concerning what  shall yet be  (like a trailer to a movie)

But be assured: On the day when Jesus comes to restore all things, not  one  will be blind.
There will be  no  lame and no  cripples in  the heavenly temple- sanctuary when Jesus restores all things! 
Nobody will enter God’s presence with any defects!
Do you now understand the O.T. picture in Leviticus ? The temple foreshadows the perfect  place called heaven!

Joni Eraeckson Tada, the lady who became a quadriplegic through a swimming accident has been a source of inspiration and encouragement to countless people through her books and testimony. She has never been healed, even though at one time a special ‘healing meeting’ in her earlier days had been arranged.  Joni says  this:  “On resurrection day I will be on my feet dancing!”

Jinelle Judd,  a  young  member of our church in the nineties, with  extreme  disability,  is now with the LORD . On resurrection day  she will  receive  her  perfect  body – praising God with a clear tongue  and clothed in her new resurrection body!)

What is the problem today?
We want to create heaven on earth!  We do not want to adhere to God’s schedule.  Only Jesus will create heaven on earth.  
This healing of the  crippled beggar  must not be expected as normative, it is a sign  and a promise of the coming kingdom!
There is no doubt that the world needs to be fixed.
The question is, who is going to do it?
Are faith healers going to do it?
Are people with kind deeds and cash going to do it?

No, we can only bring temporary relief to this world’s pain!

But we can bring  Jesus to  people and people to Jesus , And when people  believe and trust in Jesus  they are  going to be fine for eternity.  Even if He does not provide us with a miracle for healing now, He will in time  –  in  fact , in the time of the resurrection, when   He  shall restore all things.
It  will  be  a world in which there will be no disability and no disease.

RESPONSE NEEDED?

The Jews made a great mistake. They despised the name of Jesus.
Peter is willing to grant them that they did what they did in ignorance (3:17).
But ignorance is ultimately no excuse in a law court. The soul that sins shall die. What recourse do they  and we have?


REPENT!  [19] Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, [20] that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you..." 
Repentance is  found in looking  to Jesus for the  forgiveness of  your sins.
Repent ! Stop the sin of   trying to create   heaven on earth for yourself now.  It will not   happen until the restoration. Will you be  a part of  Christ's new kingdom?
Repent! Stop the sin of refusing to listen to Jesus now.  
Repent ! Look to Jesus now  and forever , and  know that  He holds the real  future   
  
There is  truly no other name to trust in 

1 Timothy 3:1-7 “Biblical Eldership”

I remember  somewhere in the mid - nineties   calling an older seasoned pastor, saying  to him, ”please help, I am struggling to give the church direction  amidst some  difficult challenges from  some people”.  I distinctly remember  his  fatherly  tone  and sensible biblical  advice  which he gave me, and it made all the difference at that time! 
The church at Ephesus, led by a young pastor called Timothy   needed  help from Paul, his fatherly mentor.

In chapter 1  we have seen Paul  settling the matter  of apostolic doctrine as opposed  to the heterodox  teaching  by certain persons in the church.  He tells Timothy  to charge certain persons not to teach  any different doctrine. The work of the pastor elder is to protect the church from  spiritual wolves  and to maintain sound doctrine.     

In chapter 2 Paul  addressed a few matters pertaining to the  public worship of the church. He addressed  the importance of  public  prayer  for all kinds of people and especially those in authority. The stability of  family, church  and country  depends on this.  Furthermore, Paul addressed the matter of  the public  conduct of men  and women  in worship.  We observed that his teaching  is a mixture of  biblical principles  (which are unchanging) and peculiar cultural  matters  related to  the unique setting of the church   in the city of Ephesus,[1] which was hugely dominated by the cult of the goddess Diana, otherwise known as  Artemis of the Ephesians [2]

In chapter 3 Paul  now addresses the matter  of  pastoral  and diaconal  leadership  in the church.  Here  we find   a vital  key to  the health of the church. The health of the church  depends on  the  quality of its  pastoral and diaconal leadership. At Eastside we have been making slow but significant  progress in this area. I have been amazed at the resistance and apathy  to  the establishment of these  biblical offices in the church  over 27 years, but I  do understand  that Satan would resist our attempt  to  develop  biblical leadership,   since he cannot flourish  in churches where  a biblical church order prevails.   Sound leadership is essential  and we see this  in   the O.T. where  the welfare of the nation was  always dependent  on the effectiveness of its leaders.  Israel  was either blessed or cursed  under  good or bad leaderships. The same is true for the N.T. church. The secret of good church  leaderships seems to lie in the fact that we choose our elders and deacons according to the biblical pattern prescribed in 1 Timothy 3. 

A STUDY OF 1 TIMOTHY  3 :1-7  Concerning  Overseers

Before we look at the   aspects or qualifications   that  would guide us in the appointment of church elders, we  must consider  the introductory statement  in v. 1 : “The saying is trustworthy”. This is the second time  which Paul  makes this statement (see 1:15)and  he  will continue to make a series of such statements throughout  the pastoral epistles[3]. So, this  is a reliable public saying, which Paul endorses  here as reliable: “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”   We point out that the word overseer (Gr. episkopos),  pastor (Gr. poimēn), elder (presbuteros)  and are used synonymously in the Bible. 

Some people  may  be asking at this point whether  the desire   to become an elder or pastor  lies  with one’s own desire.  It is clear from Scripture[4]   that the   root of such a desire   lies with  the God who calls and equips us  for such a ministry. It is  also true however to say that  such a call works itself  out in terms of  an inner desire, as was the case in my own calling  to the pastoral ministry. There is  a threefold process  involved in a pastoral calling (i) the call of God  (ii) the  inward aspiration  (iii)  the  affirmation of the church. 
In this regard  we must point out that  whilst pastoral gifts (along with all gifts) belong to  men and women alike, pastoral leadership  is restricted by  God  to certain qualified  males (described in our text).  We all have the duty  to choose them wisely.

The Marks of Elder Leadership :
As we survey the  marks of  elder leadership  we take note that  they relate to  the moral and spiritual character of the man. “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach.”  The meaning of "above reproach" is defined by the character qualities that follow in our text. cannot mean “faultless”, for no one would qualify, if that were the case. But it must mean that  such leadership must be exemplary.   In both of Paul’s lists of elder qualifications[5], the first, specific, character virtue itemized is "the husband of one wife." This means that each elder must be above reproach in his marital  life.

The other character qualities stress the elder’s integrity, self-control, and spiritual maturity. Since elders govern the church body, each one must be self-controlled in the use of money, alcohol, and the exercise of his pastoral authority. Since each elder is to be a model of Christian living, he must be spiritually devout, righteous, a lover of good, hospitable, and morally above reproach before the non-Christian community.

In pastoral work, relationship skills are preeminent. Thus a shepherd elder must be gentle, stable, sound-minded, and  non- contentious. An angry, hot-headed man hurts people. So, an elder must not have a dictatorial spirit. He must not  be quick-tempered,  quick to get embroiled in fights and arguments , or  be self-willed.  In addition  an elder must not be a new Christian. He must be a spiritually mature, humble, time-proven disciple of Jesus Christ.

Abilities: 
Within the lists of elder qualifications, three requirements address the elder’s abilities to perform the task. He must be (i) able to manage his family household well, (ii) he must provide a model of Christian living for others to follow, and (iii) be able to teach and defend the faith.

           (i) Able to manage his family household well:    The scriptural reasoning here is that if a man cannot shepherd his family, he can’t shepherd the extended family of the church. Managing the local church is more like managing a family than managing a business or governing a city or  country. A man may be a successful businessman, a capable public official, a brilliant office manager, or a top military leader, but be a terrible church elder or father. Thus a man’s ability to oversee his family well is a prerequisite for overseeing God’s household.

        (ii) Able to provide a model for others to follow: An elder must be an example of Christian living that others will want to follow. Peter reminds the Asian elders "to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:3b). If a man is not a godly model for others to follow, he cannot be an elder,  even if he is otherwise  a good teacher and manager. The greatest way to inspire and influence people for God is through personal example. Character and deeds, not official position or title, is what really influences people for eternity.  We need to see authentic examples of true Christianity in action. That is why it is so important that an elder must be an example  and  a living imitator of Christ.

       (iii) Able to teach and defend the faith: An elder must be able to teach and defend the faith. It doesn’t matter how eloquent a man  may be  in his speech,  or how intelligent he is. If he is not firmly committed to historic, apostolic doctrine and able to instruct people in biblical doctrine, he does not qualify to be a biblical elder (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9).  The New Testament requires that a pastor- elder "must  hold firm to  the trustworthy  word as taught, so that  he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9). This means that an elder must firmly adhere to orthodox, historic, biblical teaching. Elders cannot afford to  experiment  with  the latest religious fads  and  doctrines. Since the local church is "the pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Tim. 3: 15b), its leaders must be rock-solid pillars of biblical doctrine,  or the house will crumble. An elder must be characterized by doctrinal integrity.  A prospective elder must have  acquired  for himself a  solid  habit  of years of  reading and study of Scripture. He must be able  to reason intelligently from  Scripture. He ought to  have  formulated  his doctrinal  convictions. He ought to be able  to  teach others.

A biblical eldership is a biblically qualified team of shepherd leaders. The local church must insist on biblically qualified elders, even if such men take years to develop. Unqualified elders provide no significant benefit to the church. It is better  to have no elders than the wrong ones! Because of  the real  problem of pride, Scripture also advises us  that a recent convert  should not be an elder: " He must  not be  a new convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of  the devil" (1 Tim. 3:6).

Serving Elders !
New Testament  elders are to be servant leaders,  and not rulers or dictators. Elders are  called  to live a life of service.  Like the Lord Jesus , their  leader example ,  elders  sacrifice their time and energy for the good of others.

In addition to shepherding others with a servant spirit, the elders must humbly and lovingly relate to one another. They must be able to patiently build consensus. The must be able  to  compromise on non- essentials. They must be able to listen, handle disagreement, forgive, receive rebuke and correction, confess sin, and appreciate the wisdom and perspective of others.  Older, stronger and more gifted elders must not use their giftedness  to   manipulate. Power struggles  in the pastoral leadership  endangers  the unity and  the peace of the entire congregation.

To be  a serving elder does not imply, however, an absence of authority. The New Testament terms that describe the elders’ position,"shepherd, overseer, elder” imply authority as well as responsibility. As shepherds of the church, elders have been given the authority to lead and protect the local church (Acts 20:28-31). The key issue is the attitude in which elders exercise that authority. They depend on God for wisdom and help, not on their own power and cleverness. Biblical elders do not dictate; they direct. True elders do not command the consciences of their congregation,  but  they would appeal to their  congregation to faithfully follow  the Lord Jesus in obeying God’s Word.

True elders  bear the misunderstandings and sins of other people so that the assembly may live in peace. They lose sleep so that others may rest. They make  personal sacrifices of time and energy for the welfare of others. At times they face  attacks. At all times  they guard the  church’s  liberty and freedom in Christ, and to create an environment  in  which the members  are encouraged to  thrive  and  to develop their gifts, and so to  become  mature.

These are the kind of men we ought to pray for, to lead our  church. Pray that God will give  Eastside  Baptist Church godly shepherds – even better ones   than you have had. 
Don’t take them for granted.  
Pray for your elders. 
Be involved in choosing them when such times arise. 
Encourage them  by  your obedience to Jesus.  
Amen !




[2]  See  Acts 19:21-41 . The Temple of Artemis or Artemision (Greek: Ἀρτεμίσιον)  also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was located in Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey). One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401 AD. Only foundations and sculptural fragments of the latest of the temples at the site remain. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Artemis
[3] See also 4:9 ; 2 Tim 2:11 ; Titus 3:8
[4]  E.g. Acts 20:28
[5]  here, and  Titus 1: 5-9